10 Worst Ways History Has Repeated Itself


1
Mass Extinctions
Scientists say we're on the brink of a sixth mass extinction event -- if we're not already in the thick of it. VASILY MAXIMOV/AFP/Getty Images

When you talk about mass extinctions, you're not talking recent history. You're talking geological history. But this is, without a doubt, the worst way history has repeated itself. Why? Mass extinctions occur when more than 75 percent of all species on Earth die off in a relatively short period [source: Cosmos]. It's happened five times over the past 500 million years, and some scientists think we're in the early throes of the sixth.

One of the most notable of the "Big Five" extinctions, as they are known, is the Cretaceous-Tertiary event. It happened about 66 million years ago, when volcanic activity, climate change and an asteroid impact wiped out 76 percent of all species, including the dinosaurs. But the granddaddy of them all was the Permian mass extinction: A massive eruption in Siberia sparked a catastrophic chain reaction that killed an incredible 96 percent of all species [source: Cosmos].

Now some scientists claim the sixth mass extinction is already underway. That's because species are going extinct at a much faster rate than normal — possibly three to 12 times faster. That gives us three to 22 centuries to do something before we reach mass extinction territory, which is certainly something we don't want to repeat! [source: Pappas]

Author's Note: 10 Worst Ways History Has Repeated Itself

While I was researching this article, I came across a quote that's been credited to Mark Twain, though the link is somewhat dubious. But whoever did say it, I think, hit the nail on the head: "History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes." As this article shows, disasters almost always recur, sometimes many, many times. But the circumstances vary. Can we learn enough from our past to recognize looming disasters, even with these variations? All we can do is try.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Ariosto, David. "Storm-battered town hit twice in a year." CNN. March 4, 2012. (Nov. 5, 2015) http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/03/us/us-severe-weather-alabama-town/
  • Association of State Dam Safety Officials. "Dam Failures and Incidents." 2015. (Nov. 6, 2015) http://www.damsafety.org/news/?p=412f29c8-3fd8-4529-b5c9-8d47364c1f3e
  • Blitz, Matt. "On Occasions Like This, I Envy the Dead: The St. Francis Dam Disaster." Smithsonian. March 12, 2015. (Nov. 6, 2015) http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/occasions-i-envy-dead-st-francis-dam-disaster-180954543/
  • CNN. "Sandy Hook Shooting: What Happened?" 2012. (Nov. 6, 2015) http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/12/us/sandy-hook-timeline/
  • Cosmos. "The big five extinctions." July 6, 2015. (Nov. 5, 2015) https://cosmosmagazine.com/earth-sciences/big-five-extinctions
  • Demuynck, Sarah et al. "Acts of Genocide Committed Since the Adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1951." Inter-Parliamentary Alliance for Human Rights and Global Peace. 2015. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.ipahp.org/index.php?en_acts-of-genocide
  • Filip, Iulia. "Avoiding the Black Plague Today." The Atlantic. April 11, 2014. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/04/avoiding-black-plague-today/360475/
  • Frontline. "Holocaust Education in Germany: An Interview." May 31, 2005. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/germans/germans/education.html
  • Geewax, Marilyn. "Did the Great Recession Bring Back the 1930s?" NPR. July 11, 2012. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.npr.org/2012/07/11/155991507/did-the-great-recession-bring-back-the-1930s
  • History.com. "Ferry collides with oil tanker near Manila." 2009. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ferry-collides-with-oil-tanker-near-manila
  • Huffington Post Weird News. "Lincoln-Kennedy Coincidences: Why Do They Still Thrive On The Internet?" March 8, 2013. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/07/lincoln-kennedy-coincidences_n_2829442.html
  • Jackson, Joe. "Unsafe at Sea: Asia's History of Deadly Ferry Disasters." Time. Jan. 20, 2012. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://world.time.com/2012/01/20/unsafe-at-sea-asias-history-of-deadly-ferry-disasters/slide/mv-dona-paz-philippines-1987/
  • Jacobson, Louis. "Comparing the Great Recession and the Great Depression." Politifact. Sept. 19, 2013. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2013/sep/19/comparing-great-recession-and-great-depression/
  • Kansas Historical Society. "Tornadoes." June 2014. (Nov. 5, 2015) https://www.kshs.org/kansapedia/tornadoes/12223
  • Kennedy, Maev. "Black Death study lets rats off the hook." The Guardian. Aug. 17, 2011. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/aug/17/black-death-rats-off-hook
  • Knight, Joe. "Napoleon Wasn't Defeated by the Russians." Slate. Dec. 11, 2012. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/pandemics/2012/12/napoleon_march_to_russia_in_1812_typhus_spread_by_lice_was_more_powerful.html
  • Larson, Leslie. "Chilling echoes of Sandy Hook: Survivors of America's deadliest school massacre in which 45 children and teachers died show solidarity with the people of Newtown." Daily Mail. Dec. 19, 2012. (Nov. 6, 2015) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2250765/Bath-Massacre-Survivors-Americas-deadliest-school-violence-solidarity-people-Newtown.html
  • Louden-Brown, Paul. "Titanic: Sinking the Myths." BBC. March 3, 2011. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/britain_wwone/titanic_01.shtml
  • McCoy, Terrence. "Scientists reveal distant origins of the AIDS pandemic." The Washington Post. Oct. 6, 2014. (Nov. 4, 2015) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/10/06/scientists-reveal-distant-origins-of-the-aids-pandemic/
  • National Geographic Channel. "Asia's Titanic." 2015. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://natgeotv.com/asia/asias-titanic
  • National Park Service. "South Fork Dam." Nov. 6, 2015. (Nov. 6, 2015) http://www.nps.gov/jofl/learn/historyculture/south-fork-dam.htm
  • Pappas, Stephanie. "Humans on Verge of Causing 6th Great Mass Extinction." LiveScience. March 2, 2011. (Nov. 5, 2015) http://www.livescience.com/13038-humans-causing-sixth-mass-extinction.html
  • PBS. "Napoleon at War: Campaigns and Battles." November 2000. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.pbs.org/empires/napoleon/n_war/campaign/page_12.html
  • Rees, Laurence. "Hitler's Invasion of Russia in World War Two." BBC. March 30, 2011. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/hitler_russia_invasion_01.shtml
  • Roberts, Andrew. "Second World War: Frozen to death by the Fuhrer." The Telegraph. July 25, 2009. (Nov. 2, 2015) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/britain-at-war/5907564/Second-World-War-Frozen-to-death-by-the-Fuhrer.html
  • Santayana, George. "The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress." Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/15000/15000-h/vol1.html
  • Shermer, Michael. "Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise." Scientific American. Nov. 17, 2008. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/patternicity-finding-meaningful-patterns/
  • Snopes.com. "Linkin' Kennedy." Feb. 12, 2015. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.snopes.com/history/american/lincoln-kennedy.asp
  • UNAIDS. "Fact Sheet." 2013. (Nov. 4, 2015) http://www.unaids.org/en/resources/campaigns/globalreport2013/factsheet/
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Cases." 2015. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/cases
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Frequently Asked Questions." 2015. (Nov. 3, 2015) http://www.ushmm.org/research/ask-a-research-question/frequently-asked-questions

UP NEXT

The Incredible True Story of the Real 'Black Klansman'

The Incredible True Story of the Real 'Black Klansman'

HowStuffWorks tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the black police officer who infiltrated the KKK, and the subject of the movie 'BlacKkKlansman.'


More to Explore